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Writing Practice #4: Growing Grief

For these exercises, I am pulling a random image from the internet and giving myself up to 1 hour to write something. 

She wept at her first sight of it. Tears cascaded down her weathered face, and great wracking sobs shook her entire body. The guide who brought her to the place stood silently to the side, with his eyes cast downward in respect for her grief. He waited, patiently, for the woman’s crying to subside, and, when it had, she looked at him with her questions showing in her gray red-rimmed eyes. 

“Why?!”, she asked after a time. “We made all the right sacrifices and offerings. Why would he do this to us?”

The guide sighed deeply and told her the same as he had to the dozen other widows: “Lord Poseidon saw the beautiful gardens that your people planted on land. And the other gods laughed at him and wagered he would never know what it is to cultivate a garden.”

The guide paused as he saw the realization slowly take over the woman’s face. Her deep grief twisted quickly into a powerful rage as she spoke with a low, measured voice. 

“So he destroyed our ships, one after another, taking the lives of our husbands, sons, and brothers, and all just to make…”, she swallowed hard and continued, “…a garden of anchors.”

She turned to the guide and asked the question that would change her forever.

“Tell me, my guide, how may I summon the Furies? It is time that the gods felt some retribution of their capriciousness.

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Writing Practice #3: Curvilinear Thinking

For these exercises, I am pulling a random image from the internet and giving myself up to 1 hour to write something. 

Writing Practice- Day 3 - trees

Memory is what ties our present to our past. Without it, we become adrift in moments, experiencing each transient event as unique and without context. This can be freeing, I would imagine, but also quite terrifying.

When my mother’s memories began fading from her, as if she was unsuccessfully trying to hold a handful of sand, I saw the fear in her eyes as she tried to follow the branches of her thoughts from what she knew to what she tried to remember. And, just like climbing a tree, the gaps between thoughts were sometimes insurmountable. And, when the Parkinson’s and dementia took hold more and more, there would be times when she would be out on a limb, so to speak, without any connection to memory, and there would be a moment of joy at being just completely present in that exact moment. But it would be short-lived, as some part of her still knew there were supposed to be memories, and the fear would return.

Tennessee Williams wrote: “Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.”

In a “mindfulness” practice, the goal is to focus on the present, and pay attention to just this moment. Zen Buddhist teachings, and, I am sure, others, have similar tenets of practice to help focus attention to where it will do the most good for us.

Are humans the only sentient beings on this planet who understand the concept of memory, and, if so, are we the only ones who derive both solace and pain from having this capacity? I don’t believe so. I think animals, mountains, and, most definitely, trees have memories. And, what’s more, I think they all have the ability to experience time in a circular, or spherical, manner. What I think humans have cornered the market on is the experience of time as purely linear; flowing in a single direction from the past to the present, and into the future. Perhaps someday, we will learn otherwise, and, my hope is that we will lose our fear of forgetting, along with our constant drive to live in the future, while we miss the present.

Writing Practice – Day 2: Losing to Learn

For these exercises, I am pulling a random image from the internet and giving myself up to 1 hour to write something. 

Writing Practice- Day 2 - fortress

The bells ring incessantly. For such a tranquil setting, the noise is a constant. When she first came to the fortress, Galina expected grand but empty halls, with officiants and clerks moving discretely about in the shadows, speaking in hushed tones. With the last chime ringing in her ears, she laughed out loud at just how far off her expectations were from reality. Assir, her constant companion, attendant, and occasional bodyguard, looked up from his mid-day meal with fear in his pale blue eyes.

“Mistress,” he said, quickly swallowing his last bite, “please remember yourself. You should know the penalty for laughter by now.”

“Oh Assir,” she said smiling. “Peace. I prefer the punishment over not being able to laugh at myself. If I give that up, I have truly lost it all, don’t you think?”

“I’m not here to think, Mistress,” Assir replied as he stood and gathered their now empty plates. He took a few steps towards the small kitchen area in the apartment that had been assigned to them before turning back to Galina. “I would only ask you to remember what I must endure when you are punished.”

With her eyes filled with regret and compassion, Galina nodded, and schooled her expression into one of tranquility and, most importantly, neutrality. She did her best to remember why she came to the fortress in the first place, and to remain in that memory as long as necessary to stabilize her thoughts. To say that she had everything to lose was not just a turn of phrase for Galina. Hers was to be a life of difficult decisions; ones that had grave consequences for others. To learn to be an Adjudicator required that she study, assiduously, on how to maintain her composure when faced with a myriad of situations. And in the Memory Courts, if there were to be any hint of personal bias or influence, she would not just face recusal from the case, but also memory disbarment, and, in the most serious offenses, execution.

45 min
341 words

Writing Practice – Day 1: “Choice Movement”

For these exercises, I am pulling a random image from the internet and giving myself up to 1 hour to write something. 

Writing Practice- Day 1 - boat

The sails make strange sounds. The fabric, when stretched against the pressure of wind, emits a tone, not unlike the soulful music of a flute. Because they are different sizes and shapes, the tones vary quite a bit. And when the ship moves along the surface of the water, and each sail is taught with air, the ship sings.

But not today.

Oh, there is music in the sails. They are stretched and their song glides along the surface of the water, but the ship does not. A conundrum of physics, floating on a calm sea; the sails are full and the boat sits motionless. Inside the cabin, a lone sailor wrestles with this improbability. Aspirant Davith had hoped that his unique solution to this test would win him a medal and the attention of his instructors, but unless he can figure out how to move the ship, he will be stranded on this tranquil sea. Forever.

Not for the first time in his young life, Davith faced the grim consequences of his decisions. His parents forbade him to enter the academy, and by going against their wishes, he left himself destitute and without a family. To raise money for his application, he chose to take a job that paid well because the work required that he act in ways, on behalf of his employer, that others found distasteful and cruel. And so he had no friends. Having passed the entrance exam, he chose the Art for his area of study, again setting him apart from the majority of his classmates who, due to the agrarian way of life in his region, chose to study the Body or the Way. And now, insisting on being able take this test, despite the protests of his instructors that he was not yet ready, he finds himself with the sails full but the ship sitting as still as a stone in the mud.

Settling his mind into a calm state, using the glassy-water as inspiration, Davith focused his thoughts on a solution. It was risky, but the choice was really no choice; he had to do something or he would die. Slowly and very much alone. In a clear voice, absent of all doubt, he spoke the words and demanded the attention of a djinn. He had little to bargain with and the capricious djinn were not known for their sense of humor, nor did they give a damn about the life of a solitary human, floating on an endless sea, trying to become a sorcerer.

50 mins
426 words

Bus Story: Life Storms

There’s disaster in his head. Or two. Outwardly, his well-manicured hands and salon haircut match his shiny, polished shoes and tailored suit. But inside, rages a cyclone of giggles, intermingled with a tsunami of grief. The conflicts play across his face, like a sunny day interrupted by a sudden rainstorm. He is scrolling through something on his phone; I can see his finger intermittently swipe to one side, resulting in yet another shift in the emotions behind his eyes. Finally, I catch a glimpse of his phone, and he’s flipping through pictures. Memories are like that; one moment it’s a spring day, and you are strolling along, listening to the birds singing, and the next, your socks are soaked through as you step in a surprisingly deep, icy cold puddle.